News and highlights from the Mount Kenya Trust June-August 2015
Mountain Dispatches: News from the field
Welcome to this edition of Mountain Dispatches! Over the June-August period the Trust continued to strengthen its capacity in its mission to help preserve the integrity of Mount Kenya. Chiefly working with our partners to secure the broad spectrum of habitats, which provide vital services to the country in terms of natural security for the nation. We do this by working holistically with government and non-government agencies to ensure that communities are at the heart of our conservation projects.
Check out our new blog with latest updates on the rangers activities - here you can see daily insights of the team.
HPT in the news! Check out the article in The Laikipian discussing the bushmeat trade around the county
10to4 is open for entries. February 12th to 14th 2016. Put the date in your diary now - see you there!
The great work of wildlife rangers in the mountain conservation region was recognised at 'World Ranger Day', with celebrations held at KWS Laikipia headquarters on the 31st July. MKT's field team members were all in attendance and saw the Trust playing an important part in the day's events. The day was action packed, with speeches from key officials, along with an exhilarating elephant poaching play complete with capture and remand! Check out our round-up of the day's events here. We are grateful to Kisima Farm and Greystones Development Company for supplying a generous donation of food for the delegates' lunch.
JWPT have been hot on the trail tackling illegal activities within the forest. A terrifying account of an elephant snare was captured on camera as the team dug out a buried snare which viciously sprang back to trap its unassuming victim. Watch the video on our Facebook page. JWPT also took part in a joint patrol with the Bongo Surveillance Project which monitors and protects the last wild Mountain Bongo antelope. Unfortunately, no photos were found on the cameras but tracks and browsed vegetation were found showing that this very rare and cryptic species are still very much active in the southwest of the mountain.
Two training sessions were held over the past couple of months; one at the HPT base at Kisima Farm and the second at KenTrout in Timau. Each team was given a refresher course on GPS tracking, briefed on the main aspects of the Wildlife Act (2013), on how to collect evidence from poaching incidences along with demo patrols, drills and wildlife documentary film showings in the evenings!
The Corridor Team reported large numbers of elephants on the move heading to the upper areas where vegetation for browsing and grazing is still available, following the drying out of the lowlands. With these eles of course came the fence breaking troublemakers. One known individual broke into the corridor after traversing ten kilometers of farmland, trekking all the way from the Lower Imenti forest!
The Horse Patrol team have also started taking guests for rides on the mountain and people are loving it. From next month guests will be asked to pay a minimum donation towards the team as well as KWS fees. You can email or call us if you would like to book a morning ride!
A DAY IN THE LIFE
DANIEL GITONGA RIUNGU joined the JWPT in 2009 after witnessing several incidences of wildlife poaching and illegal logging around his hometown. Here he describes his life as a ranger:
"Since we are a mobile unit we are able to cover large parts of the forest and that has helped reduce the crime rates in the region. I take pride to note that the rate of poaching and illegal logging is reducing and that shows that our efforts have been fruitful. However despite all the success stories, my line of duty comes with its fair share of challenges, we spend most of the nights in the cold in pursuit of illegal loggers and poachers, as such as we are accompanied by armed KWS rangers. We often ambush or come across armed poachers.
There was a recent incidence where we were in pursuit of two armed poachers with six dogs in the small hours of the night. The poachers miscalculated their escape and fell down a steep cliff. One poacher was badly hurt as well along with a KWS ranger who was in persuit. Sometimes these events can run a whole night leaving the team exhausted."
Kenya Forest Service (KFS) estimate that around 400 million trees are required annually to replace the rate of deforestation and degradation. KFS have a capacity have to produce 150 million per year, leading to a huge shortfall of 250 million trees per year (KFS, 2015).
It is estimated that each person in Kenya uses two mature trees annuallyâ€“ this amounts to a staggering 80 million trees.
Highlights from our Reforestation Project include the setting up a tree nursery set up at our Turaco Farm Office. This will become a site where people can purchase indigenous tree seedlings and where we can trial propagation techniques and host training workshops for the women's groups we work with. A major focus will be to propagate the most endangered tree seedlings that are difficult to get from any other tree nursery in the country. For example, one species already planted in our pilot nursery is Sandalwood, a tree so rare it has been compared to rhino horn. The seeds are very small and difficult to find!
Karuri rehabilitation area (PELIS) Update:
120 acres were planted last year out of a long term target of 300. In some plots, the trees have already become established and there is no more space for farming. In line with this we are in the process of opening other areas for tree planting next year.
We are exited to see the increase of the different bird species and small wildlife like Suni antelope, although we remain ever vigilant for PELIS users misusing their opportunity to set snares. Wildlife continues to recover though and this time last year there was no birds on the area. Now, many nests have been found in the trees and sightings such as the Fiscal Shrike and Tropical Boubou. A checklist will be made to keep a record of all the species reclaiming their habitat.
For the upcoming season a total of 40 hectares will be opened as there are over 40,000 different indigenous tree seedlings in our community group's tree nurseries ready for planting next year and more seedlings are still being propagated!
COMMUNITY HEATH PROJECT
Engaging the community around the mountain is paramount to successful biodiversity conservation. Without the interest and participation of those living near the forest, conservation can never work.
The CHSP addresses the complex and interrelated issues of poverty, health and environmental degradation. This is done by giving women the tools to manage their own reproduction, through family planning advice and access to commodities. The pilot project, running from May 2014 to July 2015, utilised the existing network of womenâ€™s groups with whom the Trust works with as part of its tree planting projects in Meru and Embu counties.
The initial target set by the project was 5000 number of women informed about family planning. The pilot CHSP exceeded this by a huge amount; around 35,400 women were informed about family planning and thousands of women chose contraceptive methods such as implants, Depo, pills or IUCD. The continuation of CHSP is vital to the on-going successes in family planning around the mountain and we are happy to announce funding has been secured for another year!
CHSP also collaborated with the Government Campaign outreach Beyond Zero for a rural clinic high up on the edge of the Mt Kenya forest.
In this period the Environmental Education programme took place in Embu County in collaboration with the KWS Embu office. During the one-week exercise, seven schools with a total of 1964 pupils were reached with a conservation message. As usual the sessions involved a film show, a talk on wildlife law and plenary discussions. This creates a platform for the pupils to be made more aware of the natural resources surrounding them, problems facing these resources and solutions.
A community women group supported by the MKT to grow tree seedlings for planting in the degraded sites was also visited and educated on the importance of the Mount Kenya ecosystem to Kenyans.
An outdoor cinema session was taken to Mutarakwa shopping centre on 21st July. The community outreach entailed a film show on wildlife poaching and forest conservation. Documentaries â€˜Mizogaâ€™ and Running Dry were screened for the eager community members who braved the cold to learn from them.
This was repeated for a whole week at different locations. At Katherine Shopping Centre, viewers were stunned to see how mercilessly the elephants are killed for their Ivory. The Sirimon sector Warden Mr. Kerinyet appealed to the public to pass on any information to any KWS office or MKT personnel related to wildlife poaching, especially elephants.
The show then continued to Kamaita Shopping Centre and concluded at Kangaita sub location at a slum that is well known for various criminal activities including forest and wildlife destruction. Films Wanted Dead or Alive and â€˜Mizogaâ€™ were screened for the community members to see and learn the dangers associated with the wildlife destruction and bushmeat consumption.
THE MOUNT KENYA ELEPHANT CORRIDOR
A HUGE thank you to the Safaricom Foundation who have sponsored the upkeep and maintenance of the Elephant Corridor over the past five years. We, along with the multitude of species that take safe passage each month, are immensely grateful for all your support and look forward to working with you again in the future.
Heavy rains and speeding vehicles caused damages to the fence that require immediate responses from our fencing teams. Working with Kisima and Marania Farms providing inputs, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy sending teams to drive off renowned fence-breaking elephants Tony, Kisima and MlimaSurwa, the elephant 'highway' has been as busy as always.
Monitoring work continues and the Corridor Committee met in mid-August to discuss these issues and more. One topic discussed was the development of scientific research within the corridor. This focuses on designing a study to further understand the dynamics of wildlife movement through the corridor, with plans afoot to undertake a occupancy modelling study to gain insight into this. Another research focus will be to develop monitoring of the individual elephants that use the corridor.
The potential for the construction of a second underpass in the upper corridor where the D481 road passes fromMarania into Ntirimiti is also under consideration.
SPOTTED IN THE CORRIDOR
Over the last three months we've had a family herd of 13 elephants with young, other lone and groups of elephants, plus the usual visitors - spotted hyena, leopard, waterbuck, buffalo and more.
New visitors include a pack of African wild dogs, who moved all the way up to the mountain and some male cheetah, who took a day trip from Lewa, to rest in the middle corridor and return the next day!
THE MOUNT KENYA FENCE PROJECT
The Rhino Ark / KWS / KFS MK Comprehensive Fence Project has continued its exceptional progress around the mountain with nearly 100km of the total 400km complete since it began in Kirinyaga County.
Now Embu County and (soon) Tharaka Nithi County are completed as the project moves into Meru County.
This project continues to be supported by MKT, who sit on the technical and steering committees and we look forward to ongoing engagement in the modern and proven conservation solution to reducing human-wildlife conflict and illegal and unregulated forest resource extraction.
THE SAFARICOM MARATHON
The 16th Safaricom Marathon, organised by Tusk Trust and hosted by the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, attracted a record-breaking 1400 runners, of which over 100 completed the full marathon.
Almost 200 overseas runners took part, including teams from Artemis Investment Management LLP, BlackRock, EMSO, Deutsche Bank and Investec Asset Management.
Since the 1st Marathon Mount Kenya Trust has been one of the grateful recipients of funds from the Marathon. We receive 5% of the total proceeds which has been incredibly valuable for the Trust. Last year's marathon funds supported Mount Kenya Trust's Joint Wildlife Protection Team and the funds from the 2015 event will also go a long way towards supporting thisteams annual costs. The JWPT is a hugely valuable asset to Mount Kenya with an well renowned track record for fighting both forest destruction and wildlife crime on Mount Kenya. The JWPT is made up of community wildlife guards and KWS rangers.
Mount Kenya Trust support the event by running waterstop No. 8 at Ian's Bridge. This year we had a team from Space for Giants helping us out.
Parting Shot - An elephant family happily head up onto the Mountain via the Mt. Kenya Elephant Corridor.
Coryndon Level Donors
Eden Wildlife Trust, Safaricom Foundation. SAX 10to4 Sponsors: BATUK, Tropic Air
Point Piggot Level Donors& Event sponsors
Jeremy and Claire Evans, The International Elephant Foundation, African Fund for Endangered Wildlife.
Point Dutton Level Donors & Event Sponsors Safarilink, Susannah Rouse, Jim Butterfield, Finlays Farm, Steve and Robin Sapiro, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Friends of Africa International, Kisima Farm, Marania Farm, Kevin Pyper, Rebecca Brooke, The 10to4 Horse Riders (from 2014 event). SAX 10to4 sponsors: Kisima Farm, Born Free, Finlays Farm, Kenya Wildlife Service, Commercial Bank of Africa, The Ngare Ndare Forest Trust, Highlands Water, Farwell, Timaflor, Farwell, Braeburn Schools, Bikes and Outdoors Adeventure, DHL, First Choice, Uhuru Flowers, Maisha Flower Mills, Deilas Ice Cream, Go Wild Africa, Bevis Tetlow, The Trout Tree, Rift Valley Adventures, Marania Farm, Bayer Crop Science, Tusk Trust, The Safari Collection, African Ascents, Anselm Kitengela Glass, The Safari Company, Solaris, Raka Cheese, Mountain Oil, Ragati Conservancy, Tambuzi, Ol Donyo Farm, Travelshoppe.
Thanks to our regular contributors for their assistance so far this year: The Mountain Club of Kenya, Ol Donyo Farm, Steve Strong, Dom & Melissa Weeks.
Our partners: We wouldn't be able to keep up the good work without our most important supporting & operational partners. These include The Kenya Wildlife Service, The Kenya Forest Service, Rhino Ark, Kisima Farm, Marania Farm, Tropic Air, Borana Conservancy and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.
We are hugely indebted to Morten Jensen for his voluntary time working on the Trust's accounts for the Finance Committee.
Thank you Becky Summers for your very valuable voluntary contribution to our work!
Thank you Helle Sejer-Hansen for coming up to help at the Lewa Marathon water stop!